Friday, April 1, 2011

Darwin And Me

Do you remember when what is now called "middle school" was called "junior high school" instead? If you do, you may be an "old" - but I do, and I don't give a fuck if that makes me an "old" or not. Anyway, when I was in eighth grade I got pleasantly dragooned into a weekly bull session with three other boys, all seventh graders. We would sit around with our guidance counselor, a tall, affable, red-headed dude with hornrim glasses, and talk about whatever we wanted to. We discussed many subjects - Sacco and Vanzetti, the Boston Strangler, even Leopold and Loeb. I was a crime buff then too, but didn't even quite know it yet. The other kids were named John, Mark and Gregory - like a bunch of saints, although Mark was Jewish and this sure as hell was no Catholic school. We all became friends, sort of, and we even arranged a field trip to the Great Meadows, a wildlife preserve in Concord, Mass. It was just me, Greg and John, the three of us transported to the, ahem, "wilderness" by John's father. We clumped around the dirt paths of the Great Meadows, jones'ing like the little hard-ons we were to kick Mother Nature's ass. In some respects, the great green lady pre-empted us. We found the corpses of a muskrat and a skunk, each ripped up by the unmistakable micro-carnage that can only be caused by small animals' teeth. They both lay belly up, just two feet apart on either side of the dirt path. The three of us performed some playground CSI, and came to the conclusion that they had killed each other. Like the pseudo-intellectual twit I was at thirteen, long before I became a hitman, I prattled away about "Darwin" and "the survival of the fittest". Despite or- for all I know - because of this high-falutin' talk, Greg and John got fired up with blood-lust. Greg picked up a box turtle, and hurled the freakin' thing across some pond like a discus, not giving a hoot where it landed. Meanwhile, John found a frog and stomped on it, twice, until it gurgled blood and died. Once we returned to John's Dad's car, we told him about our brief exposure to The Brutality of Nature. John's Dad was a stand-up guy, although he was sitting down then, in the driver's seat, sucking on his pipe. He and his wife were older parents, and John was their only child. It goes without saying that the kid was spoiled, or cherished, or most likely both. John volunteered the fact that his Dad had seen a child get run over by a truck when he was young, and his Dad acknowledged that thoughtfully, tolerantly, sucking on his pipe. "It wasn't something you'd ever want to see," he told us. The three of us nodded silently. It was spring by then, and I would graduate from, uh, "junior high school" a few weeks later. I never spoke with Greg, Mark or John again. That fall Greg, in the pits over a failed "love affair" (or whatever, he was just thirteen), hanged himself in his backyard. Time passed. The surviving kids did well (real well, except for me). Mark got into Harvard. John got into MIT. Almost no one from my high school got into schools like that, but they did. And then, before John turned twenty-one, he was dead, murdered by a bunch of low-lifes from South Boston. Of those three kids checkin' out the violence of nature on that spring day in the woods, only one of us lived to adulthood. Did I survive because I was the fittest? Or was Darwin just full of it like everyone else?

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